It’s never too late to earn a degree, but some adults simply can’t afford it.
That changed for many Missourians thanks to the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant.
Championed by the Missouri Chamber and passed into law in 2019, this financial aid program addresses workforce needs by encouraging adults to pursue a certificate, degree, or industry-recognized credential in a job field designated as high need.
However, the program is set to expire this year.
A bill Sen. Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield) has sponsored seeks to repeal Fast Track’s sunset clause — and make an exciting new expansion to Fast Track.
“Not knowing whether or not that’s going to be there as you continue and finish your education, I think is a detriment to the program,” Hough said at his bill’s first Senate hearing on Jan. 12.
The Fast Track program allows Missouri to compete for business investment like never before, while also giving our workforce greater opportunity to access training for in-demand skills Missouri employers need.
“It has been, in my opinion, wildly successful…to have in the last year a doubling of students that have taken advantage of this over the previous year,” said Hough.
A new change to the program would be the addition of apprenticeship eligibility.
“In addition to removing that sunset provision, it will broaden participation in apprenticeships by covering some costs related to apprenticeships that are above the cost of instruction,” explained Zora Mulligan, commissioner of the Missouri Dept. of Higher Education and Workforce Development.
Missouri is a nationwide leader in apprenticeship programs — third in the US for registered apprenticeships, to be exact.
“We want to continue to grow that. But we know that economic barriers are realities for some of the students who might benefit from participating in apprenticeship programs,” Mulligan said.
Missouri is home to more than 2.6 million adults without a postsecondary degree, making this program a top priority of the Missouri Chamber’s workforce development advocacy efforts.
“At the Missouri Chamber, one of the most frequent comments we hear from our members is they have open jobs, but they cannot find individuals with the skills to fill those jobs,” said Kara Corches, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs. “We call that the skills gap, which is the skills that are available in Missouri’s workforce versus the skills that employers are looking for. Fast Track is a critical tool for us in addressing that skills gap…Unfortunately, we haven’t had a huge population boom in Missouri, and so we need to be making the most use of every available Missourian possible and Fast Track helps us achieve that.”
Fast Track fully covers tuition and fees when combined with other federal and state financial aid. Individuals who are 25 or older or those who have not been enrolled in any school within the last two years and who meet certain income requirements are eligible for Fast Track.
Employers can help spread the word about this grant opportunity and encourage Missourians to continue their education for obtaining needed skills for high-demand jobs! Learn how you can take a few simple steps to help promote Fast Track.